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#004 – Jason Schuller – Product Designer, Founder Leeflets, Co-Founder RIVYT

Jason Schuller is a designer, maker and minimalist based in Seattle, Washington. His first success was with Press75, a WordPress theme shop that infamously sold $75 themes raking in millions of dollars over several years. However money is no driver for Jason, who sold the business to pursue stimulating side-projects like Leeflets, Droplets, Cinematico, RIVYT and even joined the team over at Plasso for while. Luckily for us Jason isn’t afraid to go deep. We talk about the moment everything changed, finding the right co-founder and the struggle of competing with previous monetary success.

Updated on April 29
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Key Smash Notes In This Episode

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Getting your ideas out of the door before they are perfect is way better than never getting them out at all.

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Jason Schuller is a designer and maker based in Seattle, Washington. His first success came with Press75, a site that sold Word Press themes, selling millions of dollars of themes over the first few years. He sold that business and went on to pursue other stimulating projects. You can find Jason at http://jason.sc

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Back in 1998 Jason Schuller got a webmaster job at Boeing without knowing anything about the web, or at least not being a web designer on paper. He reverse-engineered web pages by inspecting their code and learning from the source, teaching himself how to design and code. At the end, he was able to pitch those skills to Boeing and basically to create a job where one did not exist.

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At the time when Jason was a web designer at Boeing, the company was running a ton of single stand-alone html pages, employing dozens of people to do all this work. Jason was WordPress as an opportunity to eliminate the clutter, to put all the web assets under a single roof. He pitched this idea to the management, but because WordPress was an open source product, the managed turned it down. Excited about the future with Word Press and feeling his job stagnating, Jason left the company to start his own.

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When starting out, Jason documented his learning in public, blogging about his progress and giving away templates and lessons for free. That attracted a following, which in turn started to blog about their own progress.

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Blogging was popular in 2000s and today it is all about audio and video. If Jason were to start another project for which to share progress, he would recommend doing less writing and more audio and video as a way to engage the community.

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Although there were already professional theme shops for WordPress that were very successful, no one was making themes for videos. One day, Jason create a simple theme and put it for sale. It was so basic, he did not feel like charging more than $5 for it. He put the theme online and went for a walk. By the time he was back, the theme had already sold enough copies to make it rather obvious that he was onto something big. That changed everything and set Jason on the path to eventually selling his company for millions of dollars.

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Around June 2008 when Jason made his first video theme, everyone else was focused on blogging. All the themes looked fairly similar, and none fit his needs. Jason was passionate about video, they were very visual, you could have a lot of beauty and interaction. Nobody was doing it, and it just so happened that he carved out a niche doing what he was passionate about.

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In Jason's experience following his passion led him to success so naturally he is inclined to believe that doing something you are passionate about should increase your long-term chances of finding product-market fits.

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While working on Press75, Jason saw what competitors were doing in theme space. His business was niche and profitable, but he wanted to grow and be as big as them, so he decided to compete, which is where mistakes started to happen.

Instead, a better choice would be to focus on business goals and work towards them. It is okay to stay small and to keep it small and success on that level; it does not have to grow beyond that level, if you don't want it to.

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